City Council ponders pier

Fourth in a series on the Seal Beach’s strategic planning

The future of the pier might include a pilot program for temporary al fresco dining with food trucks at the end of the pier.

That was the council consensus, according to the recently released 25-page report on the April 2023 Seal Beach City Council Strategic Planning Workshop.

The council didn’t take any formal action on the issue. Options for the pier will come back to the council at an unknown date in time.

This installment looks at community outreach and the future of the far end of the Seal Beach Pier. City officials discussed this during the April 4 workshop.

City Manager Jill Ingram said they had an aggressive community outreach plan in place before COVID to discuss whether the city should have a restaurant at the end of the pier.

“Obviously, from an economic perspective, there’s a lot of questions there,” Ingram said.

“We did engage with a real estate professional to look at some options,” Ingram said.

She said the city didn’t have the depth of staff for her to be able to assign someone to the project.

Ingram said staff recommended keeping the matter on the list of strategic priorities for the next six months.

Mayor/District Two Councilman Tom Moore said he spoke with District One Councilman Joe Kalmick about doing something this summer. (The pier is in Kalmick’s council district.)

“It’d be nice to have something that’s kind of fun,” Moore said.

The idea they came up with: al fresco dining at the end of the pier with food trucks.

“And possibly a golf cart that goes back and forth on the on the summer weekends only,” Moore said.

“If the council agrees,” Moore said, as his voice trailed off.

District Five Councilman Nathan Steele asked what they were agreeing to.

“Between having food trucks here and building a restaurant at the end of the pier, I think that’s a logical first step,” Steele said.

“Everybody I talked to was interested in being able to go out to the end of the pier and having a meal,” Steele said.

He described the practicality of building a restaurant before they can have a meal as the big stumbling block.

Kalmick said there was a larger discussion to head. “That’s one of the choices,” Kalmick said.

“A full restaurant, you know, is in my opinion, not happening,” Kalmick said.

“We can’t afford to build it and I don’t think an operator can afford the overhead for doing business there,” Kalmick said.

The alternatives Kalmick said would be food trucks or something similar. He cited an example from Pismo Beach.

“They have Airstream trailers, which are kind of cool-looking, and, you know, they can be towed on and towed off,” Kalmick said.

“There’s another concept involving using shipping containers,” Kalmick said.

District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic said: “Like SteelCraft?”

That was apparently a reference to the SteelCraft food court in Long Beach.

“Yeah, just like SteelCraft. That would be the design that I’ve seen,” Kalmick said.

Kalmick said the city could afford that using the money from the insurance for the pier fire. He was referring to the fire of 2016.

“But it would still require us to recruit into a restaurateur or two,” said Steele.

“Absolutely,” Kalmick said.

Steele said he liked food trucks.

“There are some food trucks whose food is extremely good,” Steele said, “and all you have to do is basically sign them up, get them out there.”

Sustarsic asked how Main Street restaurants felt about bringing in competition.

Kalmick said there has been competition out there for 60 years.

Sustarsic said you could have something new out there every week.

“And again, I haven’t done any research on this but the concept of the food trucks has lost a little bit of its luster,” Kalmick said.

“A lot of the really successful food trucks actually moved into brick and mortar,” Kalmick said.

“As a permanent entity, it doesn’t appeal to me that much,” Kalmick said.

If Seal Beach was going to do something that could be pulled off or towed off, he said he liked the idea of what Pismo Beach did.

Kalmick wanted something with style. “Food trucks don’t really have a style,” he said.

Steele said food trucks could draw a crowd.

Moore said the concept was a test during the summer.

“Tom’s idea, though, is not in lieu of the long-term plans,” Kalmick said.

“The thing about a food truck is they actually have a built-in audience already,” Steele said.

According to Kalmick, said the city’s obligation would be minimal, other than dragging the tables to the end of the pier and the city would probably need some sort of Porta Potty set up.

Kalmick said the beauty of the shipping containers was that you can do anything externally to them.

He said even if the SteelCraft concept dies out, shipping containers can be painted or given new siding.

Kalmick said there are things you can do with the shipping container concept that would render the idea more long-term.

“The restaurant is never going to happen,” Kalmick said.

“Ruby’s only made money like five months out of the year,” Kalmick said.

He said that ship had sailed.

According to City Manager Ingram, it sounded like she was hearing consensus to at least look at what that type of recommendation would look like while staff continued to work with a real estate professional to bring some sort of concept to the council for their consideration.